Europe Travel

So What sort of Restaurant Is a French Bouchon?

restaurant with wooden tables, wooden walls and black board with menu

This is a bouchon bursting with not only Lyonnaise history but indulgent, French food.

So what is a Bouchon? Quite simply, a casual bistro style restaurant serving traditional Lyonnaise (and very French) food. This could mean anything from Salad Lyonnaise, foie gras, local sausages, roast pork or fish pie.

Traditionally they only use local ingredients available at the markets nearest the restaurants. This is as local and fresh as it gets.

The French setting is somehow magical and classically traditional, and the staff seem to love working here.

Brunette woman in bistro style restaurant with painting on wall behind and wooden tables and chairs
Renae at Cafe Comptoir Abel, one of Lyon’s most famous and best boucherons.

Cafe Comptoir Abel is quite simply an institution in the French city of Lyon. It is reputedly the oldest and most authentic bouchon in France, and the setting both inside and out is exactly as it was when it opened in 1726.

The French are so talented at preserving traditions as well as traditional methods and rituals in food, fashion and many industries, and then bringing them into the modern world in an irresistible way, and that is exactly what has been done with this restaurant.

The chef, Alan Vigneron has worked at Cafe Comptoir Abel restaurant for 37 years, and the menu has remained unchanged for 25 years.

chef in white in an old style wooden walls, ceiling and floor restaurant with brown wooden tables and coloured small art works in the wall behind him
This fabulous restaurant, Cafe Comptoir Abel screams of authenticity, and in the world within which we now live, this type of experience is rare and a true luxury.

But don’t think think for a moment this means it is old school or outdated. This place is so popular, you have to book weeks, sometimes months in advance just to get a table. It has caught the attention of some of the world’s most demanding food critics

The front part of the restaurant is a traditional French-style room with slatted ceiling, wooden floors and small wooden tables.

The walls are crammed with historical photos, signs and paintings preserved largely from the 20th century.

The menu is limited but there is enough there for any palette, with vegetarian options also available. There is a great wine list packed with Lyonnaise wines and champagnes.

FRENCH RESTAURANT WITH DEEP RED WALLS, BROWN WOODEN FLOORS AND SMALL ROUND WOODEN TABLES AND CHAIRS
Cafe Comptoir Abel is quite simply an institution in the French city of Lyon.

The crawfish salad for entree was sensational and actually a very global dish, with fresh, tasty prawns with beans and finely sliced mushrooms. It would have been equally as delicious eaten overlooking the ocean in Sydney’s Bondi such is the global reach of so much French food.

Green bean salad on a white platw te with bits of carrot and white meat
The crawfish salad for entree was sensational and actually a very global dish.

The dressing was light but tasty.

I was nervous about the main course as I am not mad about fish or pastry or cream. I let the waiter talk me into it. And what a brilliant decision that was.

The fish soufflé ( I would call it more of a flaky pastry style pie) was to die for. Served in a metal dish swimming in light cream sauce with mushrooms, it was delicately served on a plate with rice as the side.

Square piece of fish topped with brown pastry in a round metal dish surrounded by a big pool of creamy pale yellow sauce
The fish soufflé ( I would call it more of a flaky pastry-style pie).

The taste was crunchy but soft, rich but clean and bursting with flavour. I could never have imagined it would be that good.

This fabulous restaurant, Cafe Comptoir Abel screams of authenticity, and in the world within which we all now live, this type of experience is rare and a true luxury.

Brown wooden table and four brown wooden chairs
This fabulous restaurant, Cafe Comptoir Abel in Lyon, France screams of authenticity.

My only criticism is that talking on cell phones in the restaurant should be banned as it completely destroys the otherwise exceptional ambience. Definitely pop a meal at a bouchon on your bucket list. It is so fulfilling.

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